Battleland

Common Sense from an Enlisted Man

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Air Force photo / Senior Airman Lael Huss

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy visits Air Force junior enlisted airmen at Djibouti's Camp Lemonnier in the Horn of Africa in May.

No, not just any enlisted man, but Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Roy, the service’s senior enlisted man. It’s unusual not only because it comes from an enlisted leader, but because it comes from the Air Force, the service that sees itself on the cutting edge of technology.

“However, technology also threatens to cripple us,” he warns in a recent message to the Air Force’s 265,000 airmen. “As electronic communication becomes more widely used, our face-to-face interaction skills are beginning to suffer. We know how to text, Skype, and FaceTime, but some of us seem reluctant to engage in a meaningful face-to-face conversation.”

He urges his fellow airmen to engage more in what he calls analog leadership:

Analog leadership means temporarily putting down the iPads and Android tablets, logging out of Facebook and Twitter, and switching phones to airplane mode to stop the stream of texts coming in and out. It means shutting off the technology and talking to each other.

Face-to-face. One-on-one.

Real human interaction – yes, for some of us it may be awkward at first, but getting to know each other better is an investment that will yield incalculable returns. Stronger connections will create a foundation on which we can grow more meaningful relationships.

Well said, Chief. It makes one wonder if our wars might have turned out differently had they been commanded less by Secure Video-Teleconference Service (pronounced civits) confabs, and more by true face-to-face time instead.

4 comments
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mtngoatjoe
mtngoatjoe

Is he saying he wants to slow the pace down? Get less done? I'm not saying face-to-face meetings aren't great, but keep in mind that there's a cost to that. It's all about balance.

SmallSpeakHouse
SmallSpeakHouse

I think he would agree with you about keeping a balance, because I don't think he meant a complete blackout based on his whole message (there's a link in the article). He doesn't disregard the value of technology, he's just warning about how impersonal it can be. You can't build strong relationships on impersonal connections. 

DHMazur
DHMazur

"Analog leadership":  a great phrase (at least for Air Force types).  The Chief doesn't talk about suicide prevention in this message, but his recommendations are also helpful on that score.

A former Air Force Officer and author of "A More Perfect Military: How the Constitution Can Make Our Military Stronger"